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Jeanne Newhall

Jeanne Newhall

Jeanne Newhall

How did this new album and overall concept for it come about?

The concept was to record a very personal and evocative sounding set of songs. I had about a dozen waiting to be born into the world. The only cover song was Jake Dylan’s “6th Avenue Heartache” that a MySpace fan insist I consider recording. These singer songwriter offerings would become “Glide”, the follow-up album to “Wild Blue” released a couple of years earlier on Eva Cassidy’s label, Blix Street Records. Much like the recording process that I have always done on the instrumental albums, this time I wanted to record everything “live”. I have always brought the rhythm section together and tracked the songs for each album that way, then overdubbed vocals, percussion, horns, woodwinds, and/or guitars. This enables the drums, bass, and piano/keyboard to make music without thinking too much; fun, fresh, spontaneous, and raw. When Russ Kunkel (drummer) wanted to join my long time bassist Matt McKenzie and guitarist Mike Miller and I to record “Glide”, it became an easy decision to not only play live together in the studio, but also for me to sing at the same time. Of course, a daring move for the fragile psyche of the singer because the acoustic piano bleeds into the vocal mic while recording and not much can be “fixed” later. Yikes! But I felt confident. With the support of the musical gurus around me and Don Murray engineering the sessions, I knew I could trust myself to sing well at that level of emotionalism.

We only did two or three takes of each song over two easy days of recording. I chose a unique studio location in the canyons in Los Angeles where we could hear the horses whinny and birds singing wildly once outside the sound proof environs of the studio. The view from my isolation booth was a big sky, wildflowers, and golden rolling hills. We were out in the country and that’s where I was born and raised.

Who would you say has been the single biggest influence in your life in getting you to where you are now in your career?

There is simply not just one. There have been a few influences in my life that definitely were key in “getting me to where I am now”: my amazing mother and most devoted fan; my husband who is also my business manager and best friend; my precious son; and my longtime piano teacher Dr. Wallace Hornibrook who recently passed away on my birthday. But, I would also like to point out that sometimes it is the person that takes on the role of the devil’s advocate that spurs you on to “prove myself”. And they are not always very kind about it. (I’m smiling)

For example, several years ago there was someone in Arizona who wanted to manage my career because she had contacts in the commercial music market. She said she could get me signed on a big label. She took on the task of soliciting my three-song demo to her contacts. When she did not get the response she wanted, I explained to her that I probably would create my own indie label and publish my own album and songs. She started screaming at me on the phone, saying that my garage would be filled with dusty old albums because I could never sell them and nobody would want my music. It was hurtful at the time, but eventually that is exactly what I did! I have released 14 of the 15 albums under my Marzipan Music label; shipped out thousands of the various titles to distributors and retailers; and consequently there are very few albums in my garage. And thanks to downloading music on the Internet, her remarks have become even more irrelevant.

I am thankful in a sense for the skeptics that pop up because they also can influence you to keep challenging yourself by pursuing your destiny. I like to say that music chose me, I did not choose it. I am very grateful for my musical gifts and I try daily to continue to discipline myself to work hard at the instrument and the craft of songwriting and composing. I am constantly amazed at the love and encouragement that comes into my life everyday to “influence” and…in a beautiful way.

Going back in your life as far as you can remember, what song or performance is the first you recall hearing and being affected by?

I like this question because I think it is important for me to be able to recall how I was affected by certain songs at times in my life, especially when I begin a songwriting project, film score, television cue, etc. Then, I try to go deeper and integrate those visceral elements into the music I am working on. Here is an example of an experience I will never forget. I was in college studying for my Bachelor of Music Piano Performance degree. I had to take two years of music theory. It was the first semester of second year theory and the brilliant but quirky Dr. Cohen was my professor. I walked into class at 7:30 that morning to the sound of Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde playing on Dr, Cohen’s turntable. Class had not officially started and all the students were talking and milling around. But I sat at my desk spellbound. Tears gathered in my eyes and rolled slowly down my cheeks. Of all the classical, pop, and church music I had heard at 17 years of age, it seemed to be the most beautiful.

Outside of your musical career, what else in your life gets you excited and fulfilled?

Ashtanga Yoga, the Royal Yoga, is the core of my physical, mental, and spiritual existence. I have been practicing this traditional original yoga for almost ten years. It is said to have eight limbs. It has certainly reached into and lovingly touched all levels of my being. Ashtanga Yoga is neither a religion nor a sport as some theorists may speculate. It is 99 per cent practice and 1 per cent theory. It has been an evolving lifestyle for me that wholly compliments the study, practice and performance of music.
I recently started to lead musical chanting sessions called “Kirtan”. I have combined traditional chants with some original ones. I play piano or harmonium and sing along with tabla, acoustic guitar, and the drone of the tambura. It is very gratifying and exciting to serve others by providing a musical platform for them to chant and show appreciation for the beauty of this life.

What in your life outside of your music drives you in a creative sense?

Painting…the visual openness of emotion and improvisation manifested through color and shape. It is so abstract and free. Often, a painting project will follow weeks or months of concentrating on writing songs and recording them. I have always faux painted walls (French washing, lime washing, color washing) until recently. I have now finally started to play on the canvas.

Of your touring and gigs so far in your career, do any stand out as being particularly memorable or defining moments?

Among the top gigs are the pair of Winter Park Jazz Festivals (Colorado & Florida) because they are two of the largest venues and they were both sold out. Happy people everywhere!

In Florida, our set was right before Grover Washington and in Colorado, our set was right before Chuck Mangione!! However, an outstanding defining moment would be in Trinidad, California at the Trinidad Town Hall, an intimate little venue constructed from old redwood. It was an unlikely place to hold a concert and yet this cozy hall houses a 1929 Steinway A piano that had lived it’s early years in Hollywood and been played by George Gershwin. I was getting a lot of airplay on a radio station in Humbolt County, but it was the twentieth day of continuous rain in the northern California winter season. Therefore a good turnout for the concert was dubious. Incredibly, magic does happen though.

When I walked out of the dressing room and entered the hall from the back of the audience, I realized that not only was every seat taken but it was SRO! And, when I started in on the first song, the hall burst into applause with the tinkling of just the first few measures. That had never happened before….the realization that they really were “listeners”!!

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